Breathing (Austria, 2011)

1fef1d3f9a345e839c18612430af89c7Directed by: Karl Markovics. This guy Karl Markovics is a name I recognized because he was the striking-looking main actor in the Holocaust movie The Counterfeiters (and he also had a brief role as a prison inmate in The Grand Budapest Hotel). But he doesn’t actually appear in this movie, and just as well, because he has such a striking appearance, that if he showed up, he would derail the flat, blank, featureless emotional landscape that this film thrives on. This story is about a juvenile delinquent (he accidentally killed a kid?), who gets a day pass from his detention centre to go look for work. He gets a job at a mortuary, lifting dead bodies on and off trucks, and in his spare time he reaches out and connects with his mother who gave him up for adoption. It’s basically a film about emotions and sad families, which is usually something in film I struggle with, because I get bored. This movie was definitely serene and slow, because it was trying to illustrate the emotional flatness in the protagonist, to paint the world as he sees it: cold, uninviting, indifferent except when it’s hostile. They did a good job of doing all that stuff, but the result is that it’s not terribly exciting. It is engaging though, if you give it a chance. Films like this have no bells and whistles, just great acting, convincing dialogue, and an intelligent eye from the director and cinematographer, etc. The subject matter in American hands, even American “indie” hands, would unquestionably have infused the film with unbearable levels of twee, would have made the carefree girl he meets on the train for 5 minutes a major character in a really predictable and condescending way, and would have put some fucking ukulele music in there somewhere. As it is, there are no easy answers, and any good feels you get have to be really scrounged, painstakingly, bit by bit, if at all. There is hope in this movie, it’s not a nihilist cesspool by any means, but it stays comfortably on this side of saccharine, which is nice.

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One response to “Breathing (Austria, 2011)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2016 | Offhand Reviews·

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